In 2015 I zoned in on Hacknet in a big way. Back then, there just weren’t a lot of ‘Hollywood’ style hacking games. There was Uplink, of course, but other than that, it was basically a vast and empty field. There were more technical hackers, and SINCE then more hacking style games have come out. Hacknet is still at the top of the list for my tastes, though. Something about the perfect blend of herbs and spices j– no, wait. That’s a mission from the game. The original game. We’re here to talk about Labyrinths, the DLC expansion.
It’s very Hacknet. If you aren’t sure what that means, check out my original review from way back.
Hacknet Labyrinths is accessible from most of the game, but starting fresh you need to do a bit of legwork. Not a *lot* — you basically get through the tutorial and a few easy missions, when you’re presented with The Kaguya Trials mission. All of the other tasks you’ve been doing at this point are one-offs. Do the thing, finish the mission, get more story, repeat.
The Kaguya Trials mission is different. Taking the mission hits you with a stop-gap message. A ‘point of no return’ similar to what you might see when you close in on the end of other games. ‘This is gonna be a thing’, it basically says. ‘You can drop this and come back later. It’s all gravy.’ Me, being me, accepted the mission straight away. At the earliest point you can accept it, you haven’t even gotten a full compliment of hacking tools. I wanted to see how it would handle things.
As it turns out, it handles it well. As you beat The Kaguya Trials and get properly into the expansion, your whole interface changes. Your email server icon is taken away — you’re in a whole other place, basically — and instead you’re presented with a ‘live’ chat. You can’t really interact with it, but the chat and the few occupants within serves as a method of dishing out constant story nuggets.
You’re then set up with a new set of port-cracking tools for all your hacking needs. Some are twists on tools from the main game, and some are brand new, made just for the expansion. One in particular stands out — the SSL trojan. Instead of using it the way every other tool works, it’s notched up slightly in difficulty. Any other tools, you just type the first few letters and hit Tab to auto-fill the program name, type out the port number, and hit enter to get it going. The SSL trojan works slightly differently. You need to gain access to a different port first, then designate which port you want to open, then designate which already opened port you want to use to do it.
That might sound complicated — and it is, a little bit. But it’s more interesting than complicated. In a game where you’re illegal exploits are being traced, setting a time limit on your access of a system, a port cracking program that requires other ports to be opened adds a level of complexity that helps heighten the tension of even the most mundane job.
And then you get introduced to the Memory Forensics tool. At one point, you’re tasked with performing some deep forensics on some already provided memory dumps, to find clues as to some people who have some stuff. That’s easy enough, but adds another complex tool to the mix, later down the road.
Players of the original Hacknet might remember the end-game, and how intense things got. They might also remember it got a little too ‘Hollywood’ in terms of the stakes. It certainly wasn’t unwelcome at the time, but Labyrinths pulls it back a bit for the ending. It’s still intense, and the stakes seem very high, but it’s grounded a bit closer to reality. I think it makes much more of an impact in how you choose to finish the expansion.
After you pull it off, you’re back into the main Hacknet game. If you’re like me, you get to keep going on another complete playthrough, equipped with the best part of any extensive DLC — new toys. Awesome new toys.
Labyrinths feels almost as long as the main game was originally. If you liked Hacknet even a little bit, Labyrinths is a must buy. If you’re hungry for a hacking game and haven’t played the base game — lucky you. You can grab the bundle.